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J Physiol. 1987 Apr;385:207-42.

Variation of membrane properties in hair cells isolated from the turtle cochlea.

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Physiological Laboratory, University of Cambridge.


1. Hair cells were enzymatically isolated from identified regions of the turtle basilar papilla and studied with the patch-electrode technique. The experimental aim was to relate the resonance properties seen during current injection to the membrane currents measured in the same cell under whole-cell voltage clamp. 2. Solitary hair cells had resting potentials of about -50 mV, and produced a damped oscillation in membrane potential at the onset and termination of a small current step; the resonant frequency varied from 9 to 350 Hz between cells, and was correlated with the region of papilla from which a cell had been isolated. The inferred frequency map was consistent with the tonotopic arrangement described previously in the intact papilla. 3. Depolarizations from the resting potential under voltage clamp activated a large net outward current with a steep voltage dependence, and the steady-state current-voltage relationship was strongly rectified about the resting potential. Input resistances tended to be smaller in cells with higher resonant frequencies, although there was no concurrent variation in membrane area as inferred from the cell capacitance. 4. The kinetics of the outward current evoked by a small depolarizing step depended upon the resonant frequency, fo, of the hair cell, and were slower in low-frequency cells. On repolarization to the resting potential the current decayed exponentially with a time constant that changed from 150 ms in the lowest-frequency cell to less than 1 ms in the highest-frequency one. The time constant was approximately proportional to 1/f0(2). 5. Following repolarization to different membrane potentials, the tail current was found to reverse around -80 mV, indicating that the outward current was due mainly to K+. 6. The outward current was abolished by extracellular application of 25 mM-tetraethylammonium chloride (TEA), or on exchange of Cs+ for K+ in the intracellular medium filling the recording electrode, each experiment supporting the contention that K+ is the major current carrier. Such treatments also removed the oscillations in membrane potential evoked by imposed current steps. 7. Addition of TEA or intracellular perfusion with Cs+ also revealed a fast inward current with an ionic sensitivity consistent with its being carried by Ca2+. Like the K+ current, the Ca2+ current was activated by small depolarization from the resting potential, and over this voltage range it was about five to ten times smaller than the K+ current. Its activation was more rapid than the fastest outward currents in high-frequency cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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